Wine Tasting Dinner Party

wine

A wise man once said, “The only club I want to be part of is a wine club.” I’m not sure which wise man said this, or when he said it, but I’m sure a wise man said it. Or maybe it was a woman.

Special Delivery For Wine Esquire

These wine clubs are popping up all over the place and it seems like a pretty fun concept. Bright Cellars was created by two MIT grads who developed an algorithm[1] to determine which wines you should try based on your flavor preferences.[2] I took my quiz and let them know which kind of chocolate I preferred[3], how I take my afternoon tea, my go-to drink (when the wine has run out),[4] my ideal wine pairing and how adventurous I am when it comes to food and wine. They then paired me up with a few samples, so I decided to have a little tasting party to check them out.

Husband and I planned out a menu and chose three of the bottles to sample. We started with a cheese spread of Cranberry White Cheddar[5] and a stinky Raclette[6].

Wine and Cheese? Yes, please!

The hors-d’œuvres were paired with the 2016 Cameron Corner Verdelho from South Eastern Australia. Melon and citrus on the nose led to a mouthful of herbal green grass. Well balanced, medium bodied, an excellent wine for sipping with cheese. It turned the cranberry cheddar into a mouthwatering explosion. Verdelho is traditionally a Portuguese grape varietal, but it migrated to Australia in the 1820s. Australia is producing some great wines with this grape at attractive price points.wine

During a brief eating interlude, where husband and I had to finish making the next course[7], the 2014 Zinsane Zin was opened to allow it to breathe a bit. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, we[8] took the roasted butternut squash and apples out of the oven, scooped the insides into the blender, poured in some chicken stock, added a dash of cinnamon and pressed purée. After it had attained the desired consistency, it was transferred to a soup pot to let it simmer on medium for a few minutes before serving. Garnished with a smattering of freshly chopped parsley and Voila, we had a soup course!

wine zinfandel
Oh, you fancy, huh?

The Lodi Zin was unexpectedly on the heavier side, but it was a great pairing with the light and healthy soup[9]. A touch of nutty coffee, definitely full bodied, it countered the sweetness of the soup to make it a well-balanced pairing. This was a great example of Lodi doing really interesting stuff with Zinfandel.

For the finale, Husband had been cooking My Mother’s Sauce[10] on low all day. The cast-iron seared meatballs and sausage were added just two hours before dinner to finish cooking. Doing my fair share, I went out in search of homemade pasta to serve it with. I’ve discovered a lovely little place near our new digs[11] called Pasta Vita. I opened the doors and angels started singing.[12] I was greeted by row after row of homemade gourmet takeout and fresh made pasta and ravioli. Hello dinner! I went with ricotta and spinach,[13] which turned out to be a hit.

wine shiraz
Love me some homemade ravioli, especially when I’m not the one home making it!

We’d opened the next wine during the soup to get that ready for the main course. The 2015 Talbingo Hill Shiraz, also from Australia, was a great pairing. Leather on the nose with a touch of cherry sweetness on the finish. Almost like a cherry tobacco. Dry with some chewy tannins. It met its match with the heavy red sauce, fresh ravioli and pork/veal/beef meatballs.

All in all, three good bottles, served with three great courses, if I do say so myself.

Receiving a case of wine in the mail is like having Christmas on a Tuesday. Opening presents is always fun, no matter the season, and when there’s wine inside it’s even better. If you’d like to get in on the fun, my friends at Bright Cellars are offering friends of Wine Esquire 50% off your first shipment. Go through this link to take your quiz and select your personally paired wines and a $30 credit will be added to your order. When you try it out, let me know what you think!

wine

Cheers wine friends, until the next glass!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Pretty sure this has something to do with math. #smart
[2] Overachievers.
[3] Dark please, preferably with some almonds. #healthnut
[4] Mimosa, obvi.
[5] Which I served with cranberry almond crackers. God I’m good. #snackmaster
[6] Turns out Raclette is typically used for melting. We just spread it on apple slices. As long as you can get past the smell long enough to get it in your mouth, you’ll be a happy camper.
[7] Because making soup is no big deal, right?
[8] By “we” I do mean Husband, but I was supervising and providing general kitchen direction.
[9] Although our dinner guest did suggest that next time we may want to add some heavy cream to the soup to thicken it up a bit. Not sure he’s part of #fitfam.
[10] The recipe comes Straight Outta the Bronx. Super authentic Italian American. It’s the best. I’ve been clandestinely dipping illicitly broken off bread chunks into this sauce while it cooks since I was old enough to clandestinely break bread. I’d give you the recipe, but … #whathappensintheBronx ….
[11] Oh yea, we moved. Packing and unpacking in less than 30 days is now on my resume under “Skills.” Now that we’re settled, we’re loving the new place.
[12] Sort of like what happened on my visit to Château d’Yquem.
[13] And a basket full of other goodies, like stuffed peppers, parmesan risotto, and a healthy sampling of fresh baked cookies that I really did mean to share with everyone. #oops

Making A Simple Dinner Fancy

 

Because that’s how Wine Esquire rolls.

It’s winter. It’s cold. Are you bored yet? I’m getting there. It was Saturday morning and we were preparing for our first proper blizzard by throwing a soup together in the crockpot. We took our Inaugural Blizzard Walk[1] with the neighbors and so we decided to throw an impromptu dinner party.

Split Pea Soup is a favorite of ours. Not only is it classic, but it’s cheap. For less than $10, we had a gourmet soup ready to go. For your convenience, here are the detailed instructions:

Husband’s Not So Secret Blizzard Split Pea Soup Recipe

(serves 4 with one leftover portion for lunch)

1 pound split peas
Handful of baby carrots
½ yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
2 stalks celery
1 bay leaf
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 cups water
1 ham steak

Rinse the peas, chop the veggies and throw everything together in the bottom of a crock pot. Sear the ham steak in a cast iron skillet and throw it on top. Add the bay leaf, then salt and pepper to taste. Set the Crock on low for 8 hours and let it simmer. Voila! Fancy dinner!

We’d ventured out earlier in the day[2] and picked up some Portuguese raisin rolls in our travels. Husband grilled them up in the cast iron skillet and we served them with some super simple fancy homemade butter.

Super Simple Fancy Homemade Butter

(serves four – no leftovers, we practically licked the bowl clean)

½ stick butter
½ tsp honey
Pinch or 2 of sea salt (Fleur De Sel[3] if you have it)

Soften the butter in the microwave then add honey and salt and mix it up. The butter shouldn’t be pure liquid, but it should be easy to mix up. Scoop it all up, spoon it into a fancy dish[4] and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes prior to serving.

It’s a shame pea soup just doesn’t photograph well. It was delicious.

We broke out the wedding china, some nice crystal glasses and had ourselves a fancy dinner party. It’s absolutely true that food tastes better when it’s served on beautiful dishes, especially when your soup tureen is sitting on a silver platter. After all, what’s a little hand-washing among friends?[5]

Silver Platter’s Make Everything Better

Now, for the important part. We paired our winter feast with a bottle of The Sum by the Seventy Five Wine Company. A great red blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petite Syrah, 10% Syrah. Definitely fruity; the raspberry jam is out in full force. A great smooth mouthfeel, a touch on the lighter side with a nice dry finish. A great wine to warm you up on a cold winter’s eve with a bowl of good soup and a hunk of good bread.

Vino Vino Vino

The Seventy Five Wine Company was founded in, you guessed it, 1975. The back label recites all the epic and noteworthy events from that year. It was the year Bill Gates founded Microsoft, Saturday Night Live aired their first episode, Charlie Chaplin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and of course, the Beckstoffer family set up shop in Napa Valley.

Vino Vino Vino

The 2013 was a touch young; it could certainly be laid down for a while to let it mature and develop, but it’s a great drinker now too. The label is fun, and the bottle itself is a heavy clunker that makes you feel like you’re about to be drinking a rich, deep wine. You can grab a bottle for between $20-$25 throughout the US, so give it whirl and let me know what you think!

Until the next glass!
Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] The Inaugural Blizzard Walk started several winters ago when Husband had the ingenious idea to walk around during a blizzard when everyone else is sanely snuggled up in front of their fireplace. It’s quite fun actually, seeing everything peaceful, quiet and white. It’s even better when you bring a flask with you. Just sayin’.
[2] Yes, in the blizzard. I really needed some yarn. What can I say? Me and the two old ladies at Hobby Lobby weren’t afraid of a little snow.
[3] Translated to “Flower of Salt”, this sodium variety comes from the hand-harvested salt crystals which float on the surface of salt water as it evaporates. Used as a garnish instead of as an ingredient, it is the most difficult salt to harvest, and therefore the most expensive. Fancy, huh? We recently acquired a jar at the Weekend Kitchen, a whimsical little kitchen shop in Essex, the cutest little town in America.
[4] You know, to make it fancy.
[5] Full disclosure, I’m so Type A I won’t let anyone else wash my china. Just in case. #RetiredPattern

¡Think Pink! Dining Out on the Upper East Side

Boqueria UES[1]

I love it when dining out is truly an experience; one of those memorable events that sticks with you for a while. Well, that’s what my #squad and I had when we went to Boqueria. Let me set the scene for you: it was a typical Friday afternoon in NYC.[2] We strolled off our yacht, the one where we sailed around the Statute of Liberty while we drank Rosé, then we took a walk through Greenwich Village. File Jun 12, 10 45 37 AM

We hopped on the subway and voyaged to the Upper East Side where we took a break for some ice coffee[3]. Before you know it, we were seated outside at Boqueria, on literally one of the top ten days of the year. The sun was slowly setting, the breeze was blowing and the temperature was absolutely perfect.[4]
Boqueria is a Spanish tapas and wine bar with several locations around NYC and Washington DC. This funky little spot had a few tables outside, and inside was a mix of high tops, low tops and a great bar; toward the back you can sit at a counter overlooking the kitchen.

We opted for the fresh air[5] and people watching. Our waiter Freddy came over and got us going with some food and Kieran helped us out with the wine. They’re featuring a host of interesting Rosés at the moment, and we started with Bodegas Los Bermejos Lanzarote Listán Rosado 2015, a bottle from the Canary Islands[6]. File Jun 27, 9 48 51 PM

Kieran explained how the volcanic soil makes the vines work super hard, and the resulting wine is well worth the effort. You could actually smell the salty sea air on the nose; it was slightly effervescent with a definite minerality. A beautiful light pink, very beachy. Perfect with our first round of heaven, I mean food.

File Jun 27, 9 48 40 PM

The tapas were On Point. Dates stuffed with almonds and Valdeón blue cheese, wrapped in bacon. Yes. Tabla de Quesos y Embutidos[7] with  Manchego, Caña de Cabra, Jamón Serrano, and Chorizo Ibérico served with olives, pan con tomate and raisin walnut bread. Yes. Seafood paella with shrimp, claims and a creamy aioli. Yes. Grilled seasonal vegetables with a hazelnut romesco sauce[8]. Yes. Quail Egg flat bread with caramelized onions. Yes. Yes. Yesssssss. File Jun 27, 9 47 43 PM

We were livin’ large[9].

File Jun 27, 9 48 29 PM

Mid way through our tapas, Kieran came over with a set of porrons, a traditional Spanish wine pourer made of glass, filled with the 2015 Liquid Geography Rosado. To drink from the porron you use the tiny spout to pour it into your mouth. The goal is to get it as far from your mouth as possible. Kieran was a pro and showed us the ropes; we all took a turn, but we were not so skilled. It turned into quite the spectacle. The rosé was great, a bit fruitier than the first, but still light and crisp, not too sweet. We may have cheated and poured the rest of the wine into our glasses after our porron pouring adventure…

Of course, the evening wouldn’t have been complete without dessert. And another bottle of wine. Even though we were all stuffed to the gills and ready for a nap. Making the extra effort was a well-made decision. For the wine, we imbibed some Ameztoi Rubentis Rosé. Kieran instructed us that the proper pour had to start wayyyyy up there in order to get the full experience. File Jun 27, 9 50 49 PM

He was right. The high pour got the wine aerated and the fizzy bubbles poppin’. Though it wasn’t a full blown sparkling, the natural fermentation results in a fizzy bubbles that’s refreshingly fun. A touch sweeter than the previous two wines, with a hint of something citrus; perfect for our last sweet course. File Jun 27, 9 47 55 PM
For dessert, an order of traditional churros, followed by an order with Nutella[10], Arroz con Leche[11] and a Turrón[12] did the trick. When we were finished drinking and gorging snacking, Freddy and Kieran rolled us out into the night and we made our way back toward Greenwich Village.

Seriously this place was amazing. The tapas were great for sharing; we all left fully sated and satisfied. It definitely wasn’t one of those places where you’re still hungry at the end. If you find yourself wandering around the Upper East Side with a sudden craving for tapas and Rosé, you’ve found your destination[13].

Cheers![14]

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] For you non-New Yorkers, UES stands for Upper East Side. I had to Google it too.
[2] I’m being facetious when I say typical. This was anything but typical. I’m open to making this typical. #yachtlife
[3] Because it turns out that sailing around drinking rosé can make you tired. #thestruggle
[4] We took #RoséAllDay to a whole new level today.
[5] See weather notes, supra.
[6] Who knew they made wine?
[7] This means meat and cheese plate for the table. #translator
[8] I could NOT place the hazelnut flavor on my own, but as soon as Freddy said it, it was so obvious. What a flavor experience!
[9] In the words of younger sissy: “If I were walking by, I’d be jealous of us.” So modest. But so true.
[10] Because how do you choose between those two?
[11] Rice Pudding.
[12] Almond and hazelnut cake served with dulce de leche ice cream, topped with honey and Chantilly cream. Mmmmm, yes.
[13] Turns out they deliver too. And they’ll throw in free churros if you order from Caviar or Postmates. What?! Do you know how lucky you people are to live in New York? Food like this is hard to come by where I come from!
[14] Note: My meal was graciously comped by Boqueria. My opinion is entirely my own.

Of Wine and Food

File Jan 26, 10 09 38 AMAs we round out the last day of the first month of the new year[1], I think to myself, wow, I drank some pretty good wine so far. If that’s any indication of how 2016 is going to go, I’m a happy camper.

Last night we entertained a few friends, cooked some food and, of course, drank some wine[2]. While Husband does do the cooking in our house, someone has to get him the ingredients,[3] and that’s where I come in. Usually, my trips to the grocery store are calm if not enjoyable. My favorite store[4] is down the road, the employees know my name, and they always have what I need. Well apparently there was a run on rosemary and olives yesterday because I came up empty handed. I wouldn’t have been concerned, except that we had already planned the dinner menu, which consisted of lemon, rosemary and olive chicken. Drat. I figured I’d go to the next grocery store just a hop, skip and a jump down the road and pick up what I needed. Well, lemme just tell you, this was a whole different experience from what I’m used to. From the second I pulled into the parking lot[5], I couldn’t wait to leave. The store was full of people[6], the lines were long and there was STILL no rosemary! Thankfully an employee checked in the back and found some random rosemary kebab sticks, so after filling up on olives at the olive bar, I was able to continue on my journey[7].

File Jan 31, 9 59 35 AMUpon my reentry into the world of calm, I immediately declared that it was wine time. Our first bottle was the lovely 2013 Pomp + Power Syrah by Earthshaker Wines, a branch of 90+ Cellars. This was made from 100% California Syrah grapes grown in Knights Valley, the warmest of the AVAs within Sonoma County. Fairly light, a bit of deep fruit, with a good silky mouth feel. Perfect for de-stressing pre-appetizers. It drank well on its own without food, and at $15.99 a bottle, you can’t go wrong. I’m a sucker for pretty purple labels too.

File Jan 31, 9 58 48 AMAs we waited for our last dinner guest to arrive[8], we broke open the next bottle and tore into the loaf of bread[9]. There’s nothing better than Greek olive oil[10], fresh bread and cheddar cheese. The 2013 Cutruzzola Vineyards Pinot Noir we opened was a knockout. There was serious Wow Factor here[11]. Not what I was expecting at all. Surprisingly there was nothing on the nose. Literally nothing, but when I took the first sip I was taken aback. This was not a light and forgettable Pinot. It was smooth, luscious and full of raspberries, with a hint of sweetness on the edge. And when I say smooth, I mean it was super smooth. Like, velvety smooth. This hails from a small vineyard in Cambria[12], California, a seaside town mid-way between San Francisco and LA on the Central Coast. The winery produces just two varietals on seven acres of vines, Pinot Noir and Riesling. I just read on their website that they expect this bottle will improve with age[13], but it was stellar right now, so go ahead and place your order before it sells out!

File Jan 31, 10 03 36 AMAt long last, our final dinner guest arrived, so we moved to the dining room and settled in for the main course. We chose a recipe out of the At Blanchard’s Table, A Trip to the Beach cookbook in honor of our upcoming trip to Anguilla[14]. Pan Roasted Chicken with Lemon, Olives and Rosemary. Per usual, Husband outdid himself. This was to die for. No knives needed because the chicken, which had been simmering for hours, cut with a fork. The extra trip for the rosemary and olives was well worth it; the flavors melded together into a culinary masterpiece, which gently rested on a bed of simple yet rich mashed potatoes[15].

File Jan 31, 9 59 21 AMWe had decanted the 2013 Francesco Cirelli Montepulciano D’Abruzzo during our bread gorging, appetizer course, so it had a chance to open up. These grapes are grown by Francesco Cirelli on his organic farm in Abruzzo where he grows garlic and barley, makes olive oil, wine and pasta, and tops it off with free range geese. You can even stay at his bed and breakfast and enjoy the inner workings first hand[16]. Does life get better? The wine itself was full bodied and on the drier side, the tannins were definitely at work. A bit heartier than the Pinot, it paired perfectly with the Anguillan feast.

I had a Riesling chilling to pair with our dessert[17], but once I got the hiccups, I transitioned to Sleepy Time Tea, and our guests went home. Cheers to the end of a great dinner on a great day in a great month!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Say that three times fast.
File Jan 31, 10 05 14 AM[2] Obviously.
[3] And chop the garlic and wash the dishes. #souschef
[4] Three cheers for Price Chopper! Someone make me an ambassador!
[5] Where I was immediately cut off from a parking spot by a pair of geriatrics. Was that mean? I feel bad, but it’s true.
[6] Granted, it was Saturday afternoon, and apparently everyone needs to go to the grocery store on Saturday afternoon.
[7] Where, against my better judgment got into one of those self-check lines, behind a woman with way too many items for the self-check, and ended up having to go find a human line because the blinking light went on not even halfway through all of her items. I almost put my stuff down and left. #patienceisavirtue
[8] She runs on Wright Time, which is about 20-40 minutes after everyone else is already there.
[9] Sometimes I wonder if we waste our time cooking when there’s so much bread and cheese in the world. #keepitsimple
[10] Imported by our dear friend who claims he works for some global company, but in reality is really a CIA operative. #statesecrets
[11] No literally, I took my first sip and said, “Wow!
[12] Cambria is the Latin name for Wales, so basically this wine came from Wales, which means the Price of Wales has had it, so clearly Will and Kate love it. #SixDegreesofKevinBacon
File Jan 31, 10 02 08 AM[13] Oops.
[14] Countdown is on. 40 days until paradise.
[15] It looked much prettier while it was simmering then it did once it was on our plate, so I’ll spare you ugly food photos.
[16] Added to the bucket list.
[17] Which was homemade store-bought chocolate cheesecake.

 

EarthShaker Pomp and Power Syrah
Cutruzzola Vineyards Pinot Noir
Francesco Cirelli Montepulciano D’Abruzzo